Shaping our identity in large part by the groups we align ourselves with for emotional, psychological, cultural, and political reasons are powerful anchors—individually and collectively. All of us are much more inclined to seek out information and assurances which bolster who we believe ourselves to be rather than contemplate facts or assessments casting doubt about our choices and conclusions.


The more solidly anchored one might be in the identity of their chosen group(s), the less likely it is that information contradicting “group-think” will be received well, or at all. Human nature being what it is, we’re all psychologically inclined to seek out and accept information which supports our beliefs and values, and thus much less inclined to consider data which casts doubts on what we’ve come to believe.

Being actively critical of something one is dependent on is thought to be psychologically uncomfortable, and therefore avoided in favor of increased perceptions of legitimacy, trust, and desirability. System justification theory posits that people are motivated to justify and legitimize the status quo and the system in which one lives. Many mechanisms for this motive have been proposed and studied, including threats to the system, decreases in personal control, feelings of restricted exit, and feelings of dependence on the system. In such situations, instead of becoming increasingly critical of a system that one is dependent on, which would cause considerable dissonance and psychological discomfort, people have been shown to become increasingly motivated to justify and legitimize that system (citations in original quote).

So the message that our technological prowess is a direct contributor to the problems of a warming planet, and/or that for all of our ingenuity and technological advances industry will not overcome the realities of drawing down a finite resource, is especially troubling to a conservative mindset firmly convinced that our market system can solve any problem.

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